Road to San Siro Snowed Over
Trip Start Feb 11, 2012
6Trip End Feb 19, 2012
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Where I stayed
The alarm went off at 6am again. "Some holiday!" rang out loud as I crawled out of bed to once again pull on the lycra and start layering up. I did not like what I could hear going on outside. I could not see out of the windows through the ice and the wind was battering the hotel. The cylindrical shape of the building resulted in an eerie grown as the gusts hit us from all sides. Having not made it down the pass last night, I was again starting off behind schedule. At this point I was not actually sure how far it was to Milan and more importantly whether I could make it there in time for kick off without quitting and jumping on a train or bus
Trying to give myself every chance I stumbled downstairs at 7 only to find all doors locked and nobody around. Had I been left up here on my own last night? Has everyone been frozen and lie dead in their rooms? Either way I could not leave, so instead I spent a frustrating hour back in my room until I heard a car draw up outside. It was the first traffic I had seen this morning. Finding a small break in the ice that layered the window, I worked out why. The road had been snowed over. Cars sat buried in deep drifts and the wind continued to bring in fresh powder with every gust. How was I going to get out of this one?
The lovely Italian lady who had somehow managed to drive up the mountain produced a great breakfast which despite delaying me further, prepared me well for the battle ahead. When I adjusted the final layers and rigged up the bike lighting, I grabbed the front door and braced myself for what I was about to feel. The only part of my body which was exposed was my face and this immediately felt the full force of the wind whipping in the snow. Visibility was almost down to zero and there was zero chance of getting on the bike. I found the road using only the red and white depth markers which peeped out of the deep snow. This was ridiculous
Visibility is bad when a snowplough the size of a dustcart, with big flashing orange lights, has to take emergency action to miss you because you didn't see it coming. The Italian driver was not slow to jump out of his cab and then, with true Italian passion, 'lose the plot’. I think he said something along the lines of “Mamma Mia! What on earth are you doing up here in a snow storm pushing a bike? I nearly snow ploughed you. You are an IDIOT!”.
I didn’t know what to do. Should I turn back and take shelter in the hotel until it calms down or should I just get off the mountain as quickly as possible? With my sights firmly fixed on the San Siro, there was only one option, run! This was obviously not easy. Underfoot was icy and several times the wind actually lifted the lightweight aluminium alloy frame bicycle off the ground, flipping it over onto its back.
I knew if I could just get down 500m or so, maybe the storm would ease and the road might be clear enough to ride. After a long tunnel, things were looking up. I could get on the bike and start freewheeling, with the wind and snow now manageable. I had to concentrate on the braking and getting my lines right around the twisting descent but with no traffic daring to take on the pass, I had 20km of exhilarating downhill.
My joy was short lived however. Dormodossola was where I had hoped to reach yesterday. After two hours I finally rolled into town, already drained from the mornings challenges
I was throwing toys out of the pram in all directions (Polly has seen this once or twice in the last year when we were faced with similar problems). I had no map, no energy and even less time. The little towns presented tricky one way systems through cobbled streets and traffic lights at every junction. This was turning into 'The Italian Job' but without the Minis. Fortunately the towns were all lined up along a long valley, a hollow which I presumed led to the great lakes. This would get me closer to Milan and so with a clear road ahead I started to get the legs pumping. There was no time for rest stops and I was now starting to average about 17mph.
When I reached Lake Mergazzo I knew I was making up time
The next 4 hours were spent pedalling hard and at almost 5pm I entered the chaos of Milanese rush hour. I had to ride fast with the traffic and hold my ground. I was riding blind now but seemed to remember that the stadium was on the North west of town. This matched my way in and when I saw the first sign to San Siro Stadium, I knew that it was only a couple of miles left.
I parked the bike, made a change of clothes and soaked up the atmosphere which grew as more and more Rosssaneri supporters turned up
Inside The San Siro was everything I thought it would be. I watched it on Football Italia 20 years ago, and now here I was, hanging on from the impossibly high terraces. The roars as the Rossaneri team was announced stretched the eardrums.
Arsenal were convincingly outplayed by the Italian masters. Ramsey, Roscisky and co. looked like schoolboys against the red and blacks. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was pulling all the strings and Robinho was applying the finishing touches. The bullet volley off the crossbar from Prince-Boateng was Champions League material and at half time the Gunners sneaked back to their changing room trailing by two.
The second half was a similar story, another Robinho goal and a Zlatan penalty left it 4-0 at the full time whistle. There was something very satisfying about the way in which AC Milan had won at such a canter, as if they knew what I had been through crossing The Alps and wanted to give me a footballing treat
If I needed confirmation that this was the end of the road for this trip, I found it when we left the stadium. My trusty (if not very comfortable) Trek bike had been nicked. As we speak there is an Italian scally trying to sell a very elegant racing bike which has performed in three Ironmans, acted as a seating plan for our wedding and clocked up well over 10,000 miles. It looks like it will be a much less adventurous trip across The Alps back to Geneva on the train tomorrow.
Thanks for reading.
Miles Cycled: 115 and that will do for now